Types of people you see during puja

It’s that time of the year again when you will have to go through your closet to find sarees and panjabis that shoutout “Amit Ray” and “Labannya” from “Shesher Kobita”. Yes! It’s time for this year’s Durga Puja and all the festivities it brings along with it. During these festivities, it is hard not to jump into the celebrations like everyone else. Any event or occasion in Bangladesh is as hectic as they come, and you will meet a wide spectrum of peoples in these five days. Somehow we all have a particular role to play. So, here are the handful of the different types of people you will probably bump into this puja. So which one of the following types will you fall under?

The ultimate mandap hoppers

Durga Puja-HiFi Public

If you live in Dhaka there are a host of options for you to choose from for your puja hopping adventures. Almost every neighbourhood has little their mandaps set up for the occasion. However, there will be some who won’t be satisfied by going to just one or two mandaps. They will not leave out a single puja mandaps in the vicinity. From Jagannath Hall to Dhakeshwari Temple to Banani to God knows where they will be there battling through Dhaka’s traffic. Where do they get the energy?

The social media fanatics

Durga Puja-HiFi Public

These are the bunch who dedicate their lives to social media. You will see them in the perfect puja attire going to fancy restaurants with the best offers for this holiday. Also, they will not leave out any of the typical puja rituals either. From dressing up like Aishwarya Ray in Devdas to ringing the puja bell to playing with siddur, you name it. They will have done it all as you can see from their Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds. And don’t forget the hashtags #shoptomi, #oshtomi, #nobomi, #doshomi, #PostPujaShenanigans.

The unfortunate hosts

In every circle, there will be one or two unfortunate beings whose homes become the ideal spot for post puja hopping hangouts. Your close one or two Hindu friends will be there as your saviour and accommodate you after a long day of hopping around. They will have to feed all the hungry ones that end up in their doorsteps while also managing to juggle their ongoing family responsibilities as well. But can you really blame us? Luchis are love, luchis are life.

The ones that are never there

Durga Puja-HiFi Public

AKA the getaway groups. These are the individual who always either makes plans or are the most hyped about it. But when it comes to actually appearing they somehow always manage to go out on quick one or two-day getaways out of town. Because no matter what you plan on puja it cannot measure up to their special getaways. Plus they somehow always have the perfect excuse that ends up saving their sorry asses. I must say these people are the smartest and are the ones winning at life.

And last but not the least, the people who never get any puja vacation

Durga Puja-HiFi Public

These are the guys who belong to the institutions (ahem ahem, private medicals students) or workplaces in which they never give any vacation during puja. They are the saddest bunch. They will have to work hard all day and after getting home will have to tolerate the social media fanatics online. If you are one of them take my advice and avoid social media for a few days.

So here’s to all the different type of people we will be meeting during this puja season and শারদীয় শুভেচ্ছা ও ভালোবাসা.

To Eid or not to Eid?

By the time you’re reading this, the suspense regarding moon sighting last night should not be a news of surprise to anyone. The National Moon Sighting Committee (whatever their purpose may be) has literally one job to do and people who celebrate Eid cannot trust them to do even that one right. That brings us to question the entire stunt of moon sighting. How did it come to be? How logical are the old methods and what do science and common sense say? Let’s take a look at the facts.

What is a new moon?

Not a Twilight movie. A new moon is a common astronomical phenomenon that takes place periodically in a process known as the moon cycle. A new moon occurs, after a complete cycle, when the surface of the moon facing the earth is completely away from the sun so that no sunlight reflects off it. This phase, logically, is not visible.

Credit: Dr. Phil Sutton’s Blog

The start of a new lunar month begins when the first light from the crescent moon is observed. This happens 11-15 hours after the new moon. This is our cherished “Eid moon” and our centre of all the circus.   

Do different places on earth observe different phases of the moon?

A common misconception, but no. Of course, because our earth is spherical, the crescent moon cannot be observed from everywhere on earth. The lunar phases occur at the same time no matter where you are. The only issue, naturally, is of the visibility.

From the parts where it will be visible, the same phase will be visible to all.

Our reluctance to scientific methods and common sense

In the past, a naked eye sighting of the moon marked the beginning of Shawwal and Eid day. The religion wasn’t spread worldwide like today and it was fairly easy to keep track of things for a comparatively smaller community. Modes of communication between faraway communities were extremely limited and each community relied on their own sighting to mark Eid day.

We no longer need to rely on our eyes to know the moon cycle. Thanks to the modern apparatus of science, we know how the moon cycle works and when the new moon will come up. So what bars the Islamic scholars from following this simple, harmless calculation?

If the crescent moon is sighted from any corner of the world, that means the month of Shawwal has begun.

It is pointless to keep trying to observe the crescent moon with a naked eye from a position of futile observation. It’s time the committee adopts a global means of moon sighting that almost every other Eid celebrating countries follow. It is 2019 and the future is now. Let’s not shy away from it.

Now that we’re in the clear, Eid Mubarak to those who’re celebrating. Those who are not, happy holidays!

How Holi became a festival of the masses in our country

Anyone relishing his or her adulthood in the early ’80s has been well acquainted with the quintessential Holi song ‘Rang Barse Bhige Chunar Wali’ from the classic movie Silsila. After three decades, the age-old, romantic song cast with Amitabh Bachaan and Rekha is still the song to be played in every street when the festival of colour is upon us.

Read More: Here’s how you need to prepare for Holi this year! Happy Holi!

Every year, Bangladesh, like our neighboring country, celebrate Holi with great enthusiasm and zeal. The festivity is mostly celebrated in a grand nature at Shakhari Bazar, Old Town. Although Holi indeed is a celebration that stems from the Hindu religion, this festivity breaks communal religion boundaries and encourages people of all age and religion to participate in this grandiose festivity of colour.

Origins

Hinduism, a religion enriched in rich history celebrates Holi to signify the demise of winter and the arrival of spring, colour and festivity in the surrounding nature. In some cultures, this festivity stems a stronger meaning where holi bids goodbye to broken relationships and encourages taking a step towards forgiveness and fostering love towards renewed relations.

In our country, Holi is commonly known as ‘Dol Purnima’ or full moon. This lasts for an entire evening on the night of the Purnima and the following day. In Hinduism, the first evening is known as Holika Dahan and the following day has many names such as Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Phagwah.

The night of full moon, (Holika Dahan) is concerned more towards the religious aspect of the festival where people gather to perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that the wicked nature within every individuals is destroyed. The next day we celebrate the eve of holi festivity, which we call the Rangwali Holi.

Holi in Dhaka

As experienced in the streets of Shakhari Bazar, Holi calls for every soul to embrace a jovial spirit of the day where people smear each other with colour (abir) and drench each other with water guns and watercolor filled balloons. Holi celebrates the beginning of a new season blossoming with love and aims to break boundaries between every caste, hierarchy, race and religion. The thrill of playing with colors is seen in every yard, rooftops and alleys. It is often a very popular spot for photographers with the intention of capturing these priceless moments.

Over the years, Holi in our country has surpassed the religious barrier and become a festival of the masses.

People from all stages of life come together in celebration of spring in frivolous dance, music and color splashing. The festival of Holi truly comes to life with the participation of people from all the corner of the society.

Colloquially celebrating Holi is also known as ‘Rong Khela’ in our country. On this day, those celebrating also often indulge in a customary drink known as ‘bhang’ made from cannabis. Whilst it is slightly intoxicating, it is drank only a celebrating purpose and in order to make this even more memorable.

The history and the myth

Similar to all other festivities in Hinduism, the beginning of Holi is also commendable in history.

The tale of Hindu deity Sri Krishna and Sri Radha gave birth to this ceremonious day.

As a child, Krishna was born with dark skin tone a demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. Nonetheless, throughout his adolescence he has been worried wondering if the fair-skinned beautiful Radha would ever reciprocate the romantic feelings, he has towards her. Krishna’s mother who also shared his anxiety approached Radha for his son and requested her to paint Krishna’s face with any colour she would like.

The festivity of colour, Holi, began since then and Krishna and Radha has been a regal couple throughout our legends.

Every year, Dhakeswari National Temple offers religious song and prayers to begin the Holi festival followed by rong khela to reminisce the abundance of love that fostered between Sri Krishna and Sri Radha and embrace the festivity of color with open arms.

How life in Dhaka University changes you

Dhaka University, along with all the universities around Bangladesh, has welcomed in their newest batch of pupils. Being in my final year as a Dhaka University student, it has been quite an experience seeing most of the freshers of different departments flocked together in TSC, Curzon Hall or in front of a random tea stall in the campus.

Dhaka University, despite all its flaws, will change the outlook of its pupils.

Whether it is good or bad, that remains a question. With that in mind- here’s how Dhaka University will change you.

But hey, if you want to go abroad, we can help you a little there too!

A bit of a culture shock

Dhaka University is a melting pot for all sorts of people around Bangladesh. It’s an entirely new scenario for a majority of the fresher’s. The first few weeks in DU can be a bit daunting for most, irrespective of whether they were born and raised in Dhaka or came from a remote suburb or village of another district.

For some, this culture shock might be a bit too much to handle. But asking anyone who has studied in DU for more than a semester, they will all more or less agree that waiting out the initial shock was totally worth it.

Judging a book by its cover

Judging people based on where they’ve come from or their background is one of the dumbest moves a fresher can make. Some of the best people you will meet in DU will probably have come from completely different backgrounds than yourself. DU gives its student a place to interact with hundreds of like-minded people. Don’t let something as minor as different backgrounds get in your way from achieving it. Be the first to introduce yourself to seniors, peers or juniors.

Learning to take responsibilities

Whenever a student is admitted into Dhaka University, he or she is pretty much thrown into the deep end when it comes to doing things by themselves. From giving tuition fees to filing for lost id cards, Dhaka university’s excessive bureaucracy will make you much more responsible whether you like it or not. And nothing sums up that expression more aptly than DU’s notorious “Registrar Building”. A place where according to myths, time slows down equivalent to travelling around a black hole. Freshers, you have been warned.

Becoming street smart

Being Street smart is always a great quality to have. And Dhaka University is the perfect space for even the rookies to hone this amazing quality. They know the right people for the right job. They can bargain to get a better rate on books or clothes in new market and Nilkhet. They have ideas about the best routes to travel around the city at minimal cost. These are just some of the things the students get a grasp on in just the first few months in DU. And we all know these things can’t be learnt from textbooks.

“Being here has definitely helped me become a better negotiator and conversationalist”

Says Amitabh Sarkar a third-year student.

Political awareness, because duh!

It’s generally quite hard not to be politically aware in most public university in Bangladesh. The credit goes to the culture of having student wings of most of the prominent political parties. Dhaka University is still the largest hub for student politics and activism in Bangladesh dating all the way back to the British era. Even in today’s political climate, DU still seen a bastion for free speech and progressive ideas and movements even with the ever-strengthening presence of Big Brother.

“However you don’t automatically become politically aware just by studying here. The truth is, awareness comes from the will to be aware. And comparatively, we do get the opportunities here”

Says a third year Peace and Conflict Studies student Megh Mallar Boshu.

Exploring the more artistic side of life

The artistic side of life draws you more? Then you cannot go wrong with DU. Take a stroll around Charukola compound. Attend the many concerts, poetry recitals, and movie screening.

It’s undeniable that DU nurtures the appreciation of different forms of art. The students’ associations, clubs, and societies work to showcase, promote, inspire and support many budding artists within the DU community.  

Afternoon tea breaks taken to a whole other level

DU students gain a newfound appreciation for tea. It is much more than just tea, it’s the whole experience. The afternoons at TSC with a cup of tea of your favorite kind and the mingling with virtually everyone. The heated conversations in those afternoons are the things that shape the person you turn out to be later on.

Dorm life and the bed bugs scourge

No DU experience is complete without staying at the dorms at least once in a while. And having a good friend or two who staying in dorms will make your time in university so much easier. The life in these dorms is no joke. People struggle the most during the tenure of their undergrad. But these five years of dorm life will teach you valuable life lessons that you can’t get anywhere else.

The story of Non-Bangalis in Bangladesh and the book that rescues them

Imagine having to speak in Bengali only with your parents, very close friends and sometimes with your significant other, if you’re lucky enough to find one who knows your words. Imagine no one understanding when you’re speaking in Bengali. Imagine people whispering behind, and sometimes in front of you, when you’re telling your mother over the phone that you’re going to be late for dinner, or asking your brother which comic he wants. Imagine living in a place where the words you grew up with are alien.

Would you be able to call that place home?

A place called home

If you’re still not getting the direction I’m trying to push you towards, then imagine speaking one of the 18 languages (more or less) as your mother tongue, in a country where people condemn you for speaking anything other than the majority’s language (even your typical English medium accented Bengali).

Imagine living in Bangladesh as anyone other than a Bangali.

If you can’t, here’s a step-by-step rundown of how your life would be:

  • You would barely know how your letters look like- because there’s barely any literature published in it. You’d grow up reading and writing the ever glorifying Bangla letters before you even know how your name looks like in your language (If you’re lucky enough to have a school in your vicinity that is)
  • The stories and fables your mom told you to make you sleep at night would be swamped under the weight of “Thakumar Jhuli” and “Gopal Bhar er Golpo”
  • You’d start high school and on the first day when you introduce yourself in front of the class, you’d hear a lot of sniggering, whispering and even a little loud laughter
  • College is going to be tough (If you have the audacity to attend one) – there’s no sugarcoating here
  • Afterwards, your life is going to be a series of “Hey do you really eat frogs?” “How hard is it to sleep on a machang?” “Are you Chakma?” “Are your eyes open or closed right now?” and a few (!) more FAQs till death does you part

Does that scare you? It should. Because that’s what most indigenous people in Bangladesh go through every day. In this country, it is not particularly a delightful experience to be a minority. We have not made it easy for them.

A ray of hope

But, the scenario might just change the slightest bit in the upcoming years as textbooks in three native languages (Chakma, Marma and Tripura) has been published and distributed among the pre-primary schoolers. They are already complaining about the lack of sufficiently qualified teachers, but hey at least they have the books for a start, right?

The tale of the first book in “Mro” language

Speaking of books, during the Ekushey Book Fair 2019 Biddyanondo Publication has already made headlines twice. One of these times is for a book they published called “Mro Rupkotha” or “Mro Fables”.

What’s special about this book is, it’s the first book ever printed in Mro/ Murong alphabet.

Imagine holding in your hand the first ever printed book in Bengali alphabet. Now imagine doing that in 2019. You’d look like this Mro man holding this book up from his impatient son, getting a closer look with an immense concentration in his eyes. Biddyanondo not only published it, but they also made sure the book reached the Mro households free of costs. According to them, it’s their version of the International Mother Language Day celebration.

All the 35 stories of this book are written in Mro, as well as translated in Bengali. So you and I can enjoy their stories, as old as time, for a change.

Rethinking our pride

For a country that takes such intense pride in their dedication respecting mother languages, we sure have been very negligible towards our very own. And even though this book is one small step for Biddyanondo, it’s a giant leap for all Bangladeshi people.

Breaking Bad at Dhaka Lit Fest 2018: a conversation we should have had a long time ago

“If we choose to tell stories about women there will be gallants of storytelling,” says the very well- known Bollywood actress, writer and activist Manisha Koirala, at Dhaka Lit Fest 2018. Invited as a panellist to talk about her book “Healed”, she shares a stage with Nandita Das, another talented actor, director and social activist under the panel “Breaking Bad”, moderated by Sadaf Saaz, the director of DLF. These three inspiring women join in a conversation to talk about women’s role in the film industry, stereotypes in society, gender roles, beauty standards, LGBTQ issues and much more.

The session begins with both women talking about how they started their respective careers in their industry and defied convention with their work. Manisha speaks of how she always wanted to go beyond stereotypes and considered herself lucky because “good filmmakers with good subjects” somehow managed to come to her and was fortunate enough “to recognize those opportunities.”  She goes on to talk about the joy that acting gave her and the satisfaction it brought with it.

In a conversation about how they started, Sadaf Saaz asks Nandita Das about her film Fire and how it was  ”one of the only mainstream Bollywood movies to feature homosexuality.” She says it became a “landmark censor decision” at the time, not having a single scene cut from the movie. While that was a remarkable feat, it was eventually criticized for supporting homosexuality in a deeply conservative society. People were encouraged to not watch the film, and later it was banned because it apparently went against commonly perceived sub-continental culture. Nandita believes that was important in making a nation realise an important lesson about the restriction on freedom of expression. “The film was significant for me because the kind of conversation it triggered” and had a “small role to play” when India passed the bill on legalizing homosexuality.

The session progresses to the role of women in the filmmaking industry. Both panellists agreed on how, even now, we have not been able to move away from the “boxed stereotypical roles” for women in movies. Women are hardly ever given strong characters or leading roles.  They believe that directors need to challenge themselves in making more diverse female characters. Manisha comments “Women are the most interesting characters…I get attracted to stories where women are portrayed slightly differently.” The conversation slightly shifts after Nandita mentions the struggles of being a woman director in a male-dominated industry. She asserts how she would always have to face questions about being a woman director, answering questions on what it’s like. “When we are working we are not constantly thinking that we are women.” She says she felt that being a woman was a “primary identity” before anything else. However, she thinks that just as there is a “male gaze” in movies, there is also a “female gaze”, and the identity of a woman cannot be ignored. It is crucial to acknowledge that identity to inspire more female directors to come forward.

The talk diverts to the “male gaze” and Manisha explains why she included this subject in her book. Women are always trying to cope with beauty standards that society places on them. The objectification of women in movies are still present and women are “constantly being judged by the standards of others.”  The lack of female directors makes it harder for a woman’s perspective to come through properly.

Later, asked about her campaign “Dark and Beautiful”, Nandita says “Being a dark person and living in South Asia, you are constantly made aware of it.” No matter where one goes they are constantly undermined because of their skin colour and people will not stop pointing it out. Fair skin is still synonymous with being beautiful and “matrimonial ads haven’t quite changed yet”. The campaign was significant in taking a stand against society’s obsession with fair skin and using women’s looks.